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Center for Action and Contemplation
Crisis Contemplation
Crisis Contemplation

Dancing in the Darkness

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

United Church of Christ minister Otis Moss III reflects on joy’s availability even in difficult times. During a harrowing period when his church received violent threats, Moss woke late one night to unexpected sounds in his house. Fearing an intruder, Moss instead discovers his daughter dancing in her room. 

Her movements were so jubilant, her spirit so free of worry or fear that I couldn’t even stay mad at my baby girl.  

She’s dancing. The darkness is all around her as it’s all around you—but she’s still dancing.

Instead of seeing Makayla as just another addition to the night’s problems, I glimpsed her as a fellow traveler…. Like her frightened father, this six-year-old fellow traveler was awake in the night.  

Even so, there was a difference. I was caught in a cycle of worry and anger. I was not just walking a dark path; I had let the darkness inside me. Evil always seeks to obscure the light, because once it has you living in darkness, that which should not be painful becomes so….  

What we forget, faithwise, in our fear—what I was forgetting that night in my daughter’s room—is that even in the darkest night, when we see no light at all, the light is still there. The sun is still shining over Earth even when our side of Earth rotates away from it. The stars still shine above us, no matter … how thick the clouds above our heads. What we need in the darkest nights is to keep walking along the path until we can glimpse the stars again. What we don’t need is to panic and run blindly into the woods.  

Makayla was just a child, but on this night, she had moved ahead of me on that path. By dancing in the dark, by doing one of the things she most loved, she was making her own light.…  

The enduring words of Psalm 30 struck me afresh: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning…” The eleventh verse of the Scripture made me shout: “You have turned my mourning into dancing.” 

Seeing his daughter dance inspired Moss to share the message with his community:

Sunday, I told the congregation that we must meet the threats in our lives. We must fight for justice, for our safety, and for the right to live in a world where we can thrive. But even in the darkness of midnight we can maintain a connection to the light. When we cannot survive in darkness by using visual tools of sight, we still have internal tools of memory to remind us of our terrain. Until dawn comes, we need more than the determination to fight for justice. We need love to keep us from getting lost in distraction, love to keep us from falling into despair, love to help us restore ourselves, get back into harmony with ourselves, so we can last through that dark night.  

“Dance,” I urged them. “Dance in the dark!”  


Otis Moss III with Gregory Lichtenberg, Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2023), 95, 96, 98.  

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Untitled, watercolor. CAC Staff, Untitled, watercolor. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 2, oil pastel on canvas. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

When the world swirls around us we go to the sacred center. 

Story from Our Community:  

I have been in the middle of a family difficulty for many years. The process of order, disorder, and reorder has helped me put into context the underlying pain I feel every day. Most of the time I find a growing, meaningful, and personal faith to sustain me, but occasionally I hit a low of hopelessness and despair that restoration and healing will never occur. Yesterday was one of those days. I found myself asking: will this situation ever get better? The CAC daily meditations help bring me back to my most fundamental belief: I belong to God and he to me. Any crisis is an opportunity to deepen my faith and trust in the one who loves me without condition. —Jeanne O.

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